Sunday, 25 December 2011

Happy Christmas memories

I am in the lucky position of having my Christmas lunch made for me (thanks Mum!) and waiting for a lift (thanks Martin and Claire) and am all ready. So whilst I have a few moments I just thought that I'd reflect ...

Today is the first day I have woken up in a house on my own on Christmas morning. I could hear the beautiful sound of the church bells. I wasn't sad as I woke, imagining all the scenes across the world of children excitedly playing with presents. I remembered last Christmas morning - the only one I was actually with Clive before I dashed across the M62 to be with my son and the rest of the family.

Today I shall not be seeing any of the M62 - the first in 3 years! As I munched my toast I listened to Ed Stewart's Junior Choice with memories flooding back. I thought of Clive and how we had listened to that programme last year with him singing along to many tunes! I recalled him singing 'Ernie' - ironically one of the tracks we played at his 'celebration' with the line 'He was only 52 - he didn't want to die'.

I remembered my grandparents and many of the Christmas joys and sagas we had with them!

I thought of Clive's family and how life has changed for them since we lost Clive. I thought of others who are facing their first Christmas without a loved one. I thought of my own family and how I shall spend the rest of today with my son, parents, siblings, brother-in-law and nieces and nephew.

My memories made me smile and it occurred to me that I could choose to spend the day dwelling on the past and being sad. Instead, although the sadness will be there, I choose to focus on the present and future and appreciate the people in my life now because today will be about making new memories.

Thank you to all of you have supported me through the loss of Clive. He will forever remain in my heart as a very special man and those of use who were fortunate to meet him were blessed - as many of you have told me. So please raise a glass to remember him, as we shall do today, but in the words of Christina Rossetti,

REMEMBER me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go, yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you plann'd:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.
So have an amazing day today - smile and create new memories with your loved ones. They are likely to become very precious.

Merry Christmas!

Elaine xx

Friday, 23 December 2011

One night one moment - when will yours be?

A couple of years ago Clive and I saw this trailer when we were at the cinema, for 'Nativity'.
Watch it here:-

I can't remember which film we saw but I do remember us commenting that we'd like to see this film. It was another thing we had planned but due to his sudden death, we never did. I could chose to avoid such activities we had intended to do but instead I feel it makes more sense to do them where I can. A bit like Rose at the end of 'Titanic' when the camera pans at the photos of all she did in her life after losing her love Jack!

So tonight I noticed that Nativity was being shown on BBC2 and decided to watch it. I settled down in my 'new' lounge in my little cottage.  It was very hard to leave the house that Clive and I had made our home but I admit that I feel more at peace in my own neutral space. I am surrounded by our things but the setting is different. I am stunned at how well I am sleeping too. In the early months after losing Clive regular blog readers may recall how sleep was a massive problem. To turn out my light and then realise 8 hours has slipped by is incredible here.  Being back in Cheshire near my family is lovely. I have been on my own today apart from my Dad 'popping in', which was great. He couldn't do that when I lived in Tadcaster.

Anyway - back to the film. I LOVED it! I admit that since I stopped teaching six years ago and Dom has passed the primary school 'magic' age for Christmas, I have not felt as festive. As a special school teacher we used to 'do' Christmas big time! Almost from October half-term the preparations began with cards, calendars and 'the play'. By the time the end of term arrived Christmas was truly in the heart and soul! Clive wasn't that keen on Christmas. He would bring a pre-decorated tree down from the loft on Christmas Eve and all signs would be gone by New Year's Eve! I also spent the last 3 Christmas Days split between Cheshire and Tadcaster on the M62 between my family and Clive.

Watching Nativity tonight reminded me of my teaching days. The excitement of the children. The stress of the staff! It was wonderful to see in the credits that the film is dedicated to 'inspirational teachers everywhere'.

There is also a loveable character in the film that reminded me of Clive - his confidence, fun and how he was admired by children. I recalled sessions he had given in schools to the groups often labelled as 'the trouble set'. The way he brought out the best in them was incredible.

As the film developed I felt a sense of sadness because Clive would have loved it. Why didn't we make the effort to go? How many things in life do we comment that we would like to do 'but never get round to'?

Is there something that you have said to a loved one that you want to do/go to/have?   How many excuses have stopped you? I have begun a journal in my new home. I have started another 'wish list' in the back of it. After watching the film tonight I have decided that within the next week I shall make a least one of them HAPPEN!

Perhaps there will be 'One night one moment' which was the final song in the film?!

I was in tears at several bits in the film but not through sadness - it was pure enjoyment!

I highly recommend that if you want a feel good Christmas film, get a copy and watch it!

And what are you going to do that you have kept putting off?

Christmas wishes to you all,

Elaine x

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Happy Christmas and good luck Wayne Gott

Every year for as long as I can remember I have written a Christmas card list and sent many cards to family, friends, neighbours, etc. 2011 has been an 'incredible' year. Losing Clive so suddenly has changed me and my life in so many ways. I have done things that I never expected and had to adjust to what happened. Perhaps this is a good time to do something else differently?

So I have decided to abandon my Christmas card list this year and put a donation instead to a worthy cause. During this year I have also been made aware of the pain and loss that people experience when losing a baby. Christmas is fundamentally about celebrating the birth of baby Jesus so what better time to think of those who have lost a pre-term baby or infant?

In September Clive's nephew Wayne and his partner Kirsty were expecting the arrival of their second son. Tragically baby Finlay was born asleep. At the hospital and in the weeks that followed they were helped and supported by the charity Sands for Stillborn and Neonatal deaths. Clive's niece Sue and husband Scott also lost baby Kyle earlier in the year.

Wayne has decided to do an impressive run and raise money for the charity on 26th September 2012, which would have been Finlay's 1st birthday. More details are here . Please share as appropriate.

So if I normally would have sent you a card please understand why I haven't this year. My very best wishes for you to have a Merry Christmas and healthy and happy 2012 remain! May I also add my thanks for your support during the last 10 months since Clive died. I would not be where I am now without you all.

Perhaps Clive will be looking after the 'little angels' just as he had begun to before he died? Here he is with great-nieces Ruby and Emily.

Elaine x

Thursday, 15 December 2011

The Power of Three

Isn’t it strange how ‘life’ seems to bring us events in 3’s? How often are we in danger of a couple of things going ‘wrong’ and then we almost expect a third? We then anticipate the prediction which so often happens and we are then in danger of letting everything else drag us down!

I could have felt like that on Monday. Last week I was driving along in my trusted blue Fiat Punto - we have travelled 86,000 miles together in the last 4 years! Apart from a puncture on the M6 after a PSA meeting in Birmingham it has never let me down. Oh – and another time the exhaust fell off in a dodgy area of Manchester I was in, following a diversion! The rest of the time it has served me well. I cannot complain. My Punto has been there with me in times of great joy and in other emotions! It has heard me sing along at the top of my voice to happy songs and equally supported me through the tears.

Sometimes I feel I have been disloyal to my Punto as I have given it another personality! Many moons ago at a PSA meeting I heard a great speech by Martin Flett who described how the power of visualisation had helped win him medals for weight-lifting. He described in detail how when he was laying on the bench to push up heavy weights, just at the point he felt he could go no further, he pictured his late father helping him – wow! That picture gave him the extra power to go on to succeed. Around that time I had wanted an Audi A4 cabriolet. At that PSA meeting I mentioned this to another speaker who suggested that I should go for a test drive – she said I should feel, hear, etc. my dream car to strengthen the image and motivation to have one.

So I went for a test drive. I didn’t like it! However, the canny salesman suggested I ‘sat’ in the Audi TT roadster. It was bright red. Cream leather interior. Bose sound system. It was a sunny day. I drove it round the block. I have never had lust for metal and leather before – but I did then! The image has stayed with me ever since. So often I have sat at traffic lights and imagined that my Punto was actually that red Audi TT!

Perhaps this is why then this week it has taken revenge on me?! In the middle of a city centre last week – crash! The back box of the exhaust gave up. Maybe it was feeling inadequate?!

Then on Monday I was en route across the M62 for a meeting and training with Joanne Bingley Memorial Foundation. The windscreen wipers ‘died’ on me! A pair of helpful traffic officers helped me at a service station but shook their heads in a knowing ‘oooh – Punto. You’ll need the whole lot replacing’. I came off the M62 and found a garage in Heywood where the chap also shook his head and repeated ‘oooh – Punto. You’ll need the whole lot replacing’.

With an air of resignation I asked him how much and how soon he could do it.

‘It won’t be cheap and I might be able to do it by late afternoon’.

My immediate instinct was mature and sensible – I wanted to cry! I had been looking forward to the JMBF meeting and Powerpoint training given by Mandy from Altum-V. Instead I was facing a big bill and a wasted day.

My recent coaching training came into play instead. I asked the man what needed to be done in order to get my car back on the road as quickly as possible. With a few more sharp intakes of breath he suggested he could get ‘the lads’ to fit it between jobs. Success! By late morning job was done and I was back on the road. Thank you

Whilst I waited I had a coffee and sausage sandwich (comfort food!) in Morrison’s cafĂ©. It was there I began to type this as I reflected on how easy it is to slip into negativity and allow a number of ‘bad’ things to let us spiral into a sea of dismay.

I could have wallowed in ‘it’s not fair’ and catalogued a whole list of happenings and situations that would ‘prove’ my life is a mess; I am overwhelmed; nothing goes my way, etc. etc. I could have snapped at the girl serving me at the counter. Instead I smiled at her and joined the banter she and a colleague were having. They were attempting to guess her middle name. Three letters. Began with ‘J’. I got it immediately – JOY!

So I sat munching my sausage sandwich and reflected on the many joys in my life.
  • I was grateful that my windscreen wipers had given up on me in daylight, at a time of day that they could be fixed – so often I have travelled late at night on wet and windy motorways – it could have been so much worse. I was warm and safe. For some people a new exhaust and a ‘big job’ on their car would ruin their Christmas – luckily for me I shall get by.
  • I am LOVING my new cottage. It has been very emotional leaving behind the home Clive and I had built together and remains painful on my return trips, as there are still things to be done there. Yet being back within the immediate reach of my family is wonderful. Magic moments so far have been Dom calling straight from school and me being able to give him an afternoon snack. Small thing but huge for me as this is a Mum’s pleasure that I have not been in a position to do for over three years.
  • My toddler niece Sophie now shouts ‘Laine’s house’ when we park outside. Watching Peppa Pig with her as she sits at the little tray table that Dom used to use brings such joy.
  • Being able to merely ‘drop in’ and have a drink with my parents is fantastic. I can tell that their worries have lessened about me knowing I am back in the area.
  • The warm ‘welcome back’ from my Cheshire friends has touched me as much as the messages of support from those I had made in Yorkshire.
  • I now look forward to spending Christmas and New Year in my new home. Of course it hurts that Clive is no longer around but I know he would be pleased with my decision as he gave his blessing for the idea weeks before he died. I have bought a little bin for my bathroom – it’s not pink as it would clash with the tiles – which had been my initial independent intention without a man to ‘tell me’ what I should choose! It is exciting to have my one home for the first time ever.

So after a Monday morning which put challenges in my way I continued on my journey. I put on my favourite Rascal Flatts CD and this tracked played…

Yes my road has been broken, as it does for many of us. Yet it has lead me to where I currently am – finding joy in life again.

Some people chose to spend their days hanging onto the past and living bitter lives, blaming others for where they are. I received a newsletter from Dr. Alan Zimmerman, who I heard speak when I attended a National Speakers Association convention in New York. His theme this week was about 3 ways to make a positive relationship.

1. Bring a bright spirit to every encounter.

That doesn't mean you have to be friends with everybody at work. You don't even have to like some of your coworkers or relatives. But you ... and only you ... can decide what kind of demeanor you bring to your meetings or get-togethers.

When I was speaking to the Alaska Association of Municipal Clerks, one member of the audience, Julie Cozzi, the Borough Clerk for Haines, Alaska, said it beautifully. She said, "Everyone brings joy to a room ... some when they enter, some when they leave."

Julie learned how to bring a bright spirit to every encounter. And in a similar manner, you can do the same thing. In fact, in these high-stress times, we desperately need people who bring a bright spirit to every encounter.

But ... you must choose to do it NOW ... no matter what is happening in your life or work. Unfortunately, as one person pointed out, most people choose to do it later ... when everything is going well ... when they're feeling better.

No! You've got to bring a bright spirit NOW ... not as one person said, "We convince ourselves that life will be better after we get married, have a baby, then another. Then we are frustrated that the kids aren't old enough and we'll be more content when they are. After that we're frustrated that we have teenagers to deal with. We will certainly be happy when they are out of that stage. We tell ourselves that our life will be complete when our spouse gets his or her act together, when we get a nicer car, are able to go on a nice vacation, when we retire."

"The truth is, there's no better time to be happy than right NOW. If not now, when? Your life will always be filled with challenges. It's best to admit this to yourself and decide to he happy anyway."

"So stop waiting until you finish school, until you go back to school, until you lose ten pounds, until you gain ten pounds, until you have kids, until your kids leave the house, until you start work, until you retire, until you get married, until you get divorced, until Friday night, until Sunday morning, until you get a new car or home, until your car or home is paid off, until spring, until summer, until fall, until winter, until you are off welfare, until the first or fifteenth, until your song comes on, until you've had a drink, until you've sobered up, until you die to decide that there is no better time than right NOW to be happy. Happiness is a journey, not a destination."

How do you do all that when times are tough? The author concluded by saying, "Work like you don't need the money, love like you you've never been hurt, and dance like no one's watching."

And then, to be a positive force in your personal and professional relationships,

2. Be more of a giver than a taker.

Many countries are on the verge of economic collapse ... many organizations are barely hanging on ... many teams are not working well ... and many relationships are falling apart ... because too many of the people in those countries, organizations, teams, and relationships are takers instead of givers. They're focused on taking on what they can get for themselves, no matter who they take it from. But that always has been and always will be a recipe for disaster.

That's why it was somewhat controversial when William Barclay preached, "Give without remembering and receive without forgetting."

It's also a practice that Joan Miller, a Navy investigator and one of my audience members, follows with such warmth and compassion. She's a giver instead of a taker, despite her heavy load of challenges.

As she told me, she lost her dear husband unexpectedly when he was taken by a stroke on her birthday. Then her Mother died a short time later of kidney failure. In between all of that, she had 4 surgeries herself. Fortunately, Joan had 10 givers in her life ... some coworkers and some relatives who kept calling her, who checked on her, who cared for her at home, bathing her, and applying antibiotic ointments.

When Joan's next birthday came, she decided to be a giver as well. She wrote, "I woke up on my birthday with a strong need to express my thanks to the many women who showered me with their love and compassion over the last year. I sent living plants to these 10 women with the following message: I'm counting my blessings on this birthday, and you're a Top 10! Thanks for being there."

Joan continued, "It seemed like the florist bill cost a fortune. But guess what? It paid back 10-fold. All the loving messages, e-mails, phone calls, and hugs from those women were priceless. One of the most rewarding feedback messages was from my niece Barbara, a single parent of a 10-year old boy. Naturally she thought it was amazing to think I was giving gifts to others on my birthday, and her niece added, 'I haven't had flowers or a plant delivered to me in years. I absolutely love it. And I'll take such good care of it and think of you at the same time.'"

Joan finished her note to me by asking a question. "Now I ask you, how could I have possibly received a better gift on my birthday than all those loving messages and bits of feedback? I've learned that the kindnesses we give to others are the very things that bring lasting memories to ourselves and others."

I believe that when you and I and everybody else learn that same lesson, our workplaces and our relationships will be so much better. Be more of a giver than a taker.

And finally, in your quest to become a positive force in your personal and professional relationships,

3. Plant good seeds.

You're going to have some problems and frustrations in every relationship you have now or ever will have. That's a given. And those challenges may tempt you to give up on a person or a relationship, and they may tempt you to retaliate or get even.

At times like those, you need to remember what one Anonymous author wrote: "As we grow up, we learn that even the one person that wasn't supposed to
ever let you down probably will. You will have your heart broken probably more than once and it's harder every time. You'll break hearts too, so remember how it felt when yours was broken. You'll fight with your best friend. You'll blame a new love for things an old one did. You'll cry because time is passing too fast, and you'll eventually lose someone you love. So take too many pictures, laugh too much, and love like you've never been hurt because every sixty seconds you spend upset is a minute of happiness you'll never get back."

The point is simple but important: you've got to do the right thing ... the good thing ... in your relationships ... whether or not you feel like it. After all, you are responsible for what you do in your relationships. How the other person responds to what you do is another issue and is not your reasonability.

It's like planting seeds. If you're a farmer, you are responsible for planting good seed, but the growth of that seed is somewhat beyond your control. Nonetheless, if you're a smart farmer you keep on planting good seed ... because chances are ... you'll eventually reap a good harvest. It's the law of sowing and reaping that works just as well in a farmer's field as it does in your relationships.

During this holiday season, or any season for that matter, take heed of this ageless advice:
If you plant honesty, you will reap trust.
If you plant goodness, you will reap friends.
If you plant humility, you will reap greatness.
If you plant perseverance, you will reap victory.
If you plant consideration, you will reap harmony.
If you plant hard work, you will reap success.
If you plant forgiveness, you will reap reconciliation.
If you plant openness, you will reap intimacy.
If you plant patience, you will reap improvements.
If you plant faith, you will reap miracles.

If you plant dishonesty, you will reap distrust.
If you plant selfishness, you will reap loneliness.
If you plant pride, you will reap destruction.
If you plant envy, you will reap trouble.
If you plant laziness, you will reap stagnation.
If you plant bitterness, you will reap isolation.
If you plant greed, you will reap loss.
If you plant gossip, you will reap enemies.
If you plant worries, you will reap wrinkles.
If you plant sin, you will reap guilt.

So think twice about the kinds of seeds you're planting with your customers, your coworkers, your friends, and family members. It will determine the results you reap tomorrow. The seeds you're planting will make your life and your business better or worse.

To become a positive force, just remember relationship building is a lot like gardening. As Lynwood L. Giacomini says, "Like a gardener, I believe that what goes down must come up." And I say, what goes out must come back.


Write down 10 good seeds you will plant this week in your customers, your coworkers, your friends, and family members. And each time you plant one of those seeds, check it off the list.

Make every day your payoff day!

(2011 Reprinted with permission from Dr. Alan Zimmerman, a full-time professional speaker who specializes in attitude, motivation, and leadership programs that pay off. For more information on his programs ... or to receive your own free subscription to the 'Tuesday Tip' ... go to or call 800-621-7881.)

So Dr Zimmerman also uses the Power of Three!

I changed my negative thinking about ‘things come in threes’ to counting my joys in life, making myself and others feel better in the process.

What three things can you do to make the world a better place for yourself and others today?

Elaine x

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

'Today I will make a difference' - will you?

Last week when I posted about the fact I was moving out of the home I shared with Clive back to be near my family, I concluded by posing the question about making each day count. Clive often spoke about how we 'only have today'. Losing him so suddenly really woke me up to that.

One my business colleagues and friends, Mike Coote, of Stratagem Plus Group, read my blog and showed me that he had featured this quote on his Linkedin account last week.

Today I Will Make a Difference By Max Lucado

"Today I will make a difference. I will begin by controlling my thoughts. A person is the product of his thoughts. I want to be happy and hopeful. Therefore, I will have thoughts that are happy and hopeful. I refuse to be victimised by my circumstances. I will not let petty inconveniences such as stop lights, long lines, and traffic jams be my masters. I will avoid negativism and gossip. Optimism will be my companion, and victory will be my hallmark. Today I will make a difference.

I will be grateful for the twenty-four hours that are before me. Time is a precious commodity. I refuse to allow what little time I have to be contaminated by self-pity, anxiety, or boredom. I will face this day with the joy of a child and the courage of a giant. I will drink each minute as though it is my last. When tomorrow comes, today will be gone forever. While it is here, I will use it for loving and giving. Today I will make a difference.

I will not let past failures haunt me. Even though my life is scarred with mistakes, I refuse to rummage through my trash heap of failures. I will admit them. I will correct them. I will press on victoriously. No failure is fatal. It's OK to stumble...I will get up. It's OK to fail...I will rise again. Today I will make a difference. Sometimes life just feels like an insurmountable obstacle. Too many things don't go our way... That's the time to reflect and give thanks for everything we have in our lives..."

Powerful words Mike - thank you for sharing them.

As I write this I ask those of you who believe in the power of prayer to have Don Hales in yours. I have just read that he has had a massive heart attack and is in a critical condition. Don has to be one of the kindest men I have ever had the pleasure to meet. I first met him when I had joined the PSA and I spoke at the East chapter many years ago. Since then we have stayed in touch. He also knew Clive well and we were all due to meet up earlier this year. Don came along to the Golf Day for Clive's foundation in the summer.

He had posted proudly on Facebook about his new grand-daughter at the weekend. I hope and pray that Don makes a speedy recovery.

I am not living my life now with a pessimistic 'I could be dead tomorrow' approach yet rather one of  'I want to make each day count, being gracious for all the many blessings I have, feeling I have been the best I could be and spending it with those who are precious to me'.

How do you live your life?

Elaine x

Can you help please?

As many of you are aware I am trustee of the Joanne (Joe) Bingley Memorial Foundation. Yesterday we were delighted to be featured in The Guardian.

Here is the text:-

The Joanne (Joe) Bingley Memorial Foundation was established to to highlight the misunderstood ravages of post-natal depression.

Chris Bingley's wife killed herself when their first child was 10 weeks old. The vivacious nurse had longed for a baby and, at 39, had begun to fear it would never happen. But days after the birth, post-natal depression (PND) set in. Within weeks it had consumed her and she took her own life in April 2010.

Chris has since struggled to bring up his small daughter alone while maintaining his job and establishing the Joanne (Joe) Bingley Memorial Foundation to highlight the misunderstood ravages of PND.

"When Joe died I was beside myself with grief, but there was a burning anger too," he says. "How could such a sensitive, caring nursing professional be allowed to descend into such a desperate state?"

The greatest cause of maternal deaths in the UK is mental illness, yet NHS provisions for women suffering from PND are largely inadequate. In response to Joe's death, the Patients Association surveyed the perinatal mental health care provided by 150 primary care trusts and found that 55% fail to offer appropriate information and support to mothers who may be suffering from PND. More than three-quarters had no idea of the incidence of PND in their region.

The memorial foundation, launched in April 2011 on what would have been Joe's 40th birthday, aims to publicise the condition, support sufferers and campaign for improvements to healthcare provision. It is also working with 30 other charities to set up an umbrella organisation to research the causes and treatment of an illness which devastates lives and costs the UK economy an estimated £60m a year.

"Joe had a family history of PND, and the coroner's report highlighted the failure of the NHS to help her," Chris says. "If the guidelines had been followed she would have been hospitalised when her symptoms became severe and she would still be alive today."

So far, the £14,000 raised by the foundation has been spent on distributing leaflets on PND and its symptoms, and on training mentors to highlight awareness through Sure Start Centres and health visitors. The foundation website offers comprehensive advice on how to recognize PND and where to turn, and a pilot scheme of local support groups staffed by volunteers in West Yorkshire launches in January. Eventually, it aims to provide every new mother with a booklet of information, and with more volunteers and resources Chris hopes to be able to offer one-to-one mentoring. "So far there is no kind of network like this in the region," Chris says.

The foundation's outreach has already helped other women battling the bewildering, often violent, symptoms of the illness. "I had been to my doctor, and both my husband and I had begged for help from the health visitors and GPs but we were ignored," says Clara Wilson, who has suffered from mental health issues since giving birth to her daughter in January. "I came across a leaflet from the foundation which made me realise my depression is real. I wasn't a bad mum, I was ill. There is very, very little information available about PND so that little leaflet was a lifesaver for me."

The foundation needs corporate sponsors and volunteers to help mentor, fund raise and share their experiences online. It has also set up a petition to end the postcode lottery in perinatal healthcare and an online raffle to raise funds runs until 16 December.

I would be delighted if you could help - even if sharing the link for the petition and raffle to your contacts.

Thank you,

Elaine x

Friday, 2 December 2011

Moving out and moving on

Regular readers of my blog will have noticed that I am not writing as much as I did earlier in the year after we lost Clive. I guess I used the September holiday with my parents as a significant turning point as after those dates (which would have been when Clive and I were on a cruise), everything in my diary was down to ‘me’.

I also knew that I had to take responsibility for my own life. I have to accept that Clive Gott has died. No longer will I hear his voice; feel his hugs; see that special look in his eye for me. So I have put my energies into positive aspects. I cannot bring back the past. I could chose to spend the rest of my days dwelling on ‘what might have been’ but what good would that do anyone, least of all me? I also know Clive would be furious with me! He would say I was ‘bang out of order’! ‘Did I teach you nothing?’ he’d say.

So the past few months I have begun to focus more on my own work and life – without him. I feel that I have now delivered my adapted messages in my talks and received great feedback. My rebrand is well underway with more developments coming soon.

As all this has taken shape I have become increasingly unhappy in what was our home. Several weeks before Clive died we were having a walk together. Out of the blue he declared ‘If ever I wasn’t here, you’d have my full blessing to pack up and move back to your family’.

On increasing occasions now I have left my son, parents, sister, niece and brother-in-law in Cheshire to drive across the M62 back to an empty house. No longer does Clive sit waiting at the bottom of the stairs for me. No longer does he wait like an excited child, so happy to see me. The house is dark, quiet and empty. Returning after a speaking engagement is flat and lonely. And pointless.

Of course I have Clive’s family and some wonderful friends in Yorkshire who I have made over he last three years but I need to be back with my own family – where I belong.

At half term I was especially upset only to see Dom for around 24 hours. It simply won’t do. I have missed out on so much of his life in the past 3 years. I don’t want to miss any more.
So I looked on Rightmove and fell instantly in love with a 2 bedroomed cottage. I contacted Cheshire Relocation and they have done a sterling job for me. I move in very soon!

I am sooooo excited! If you draw a triangle between Dom’s house, my parents and my sister I am right in the middle, around 7 minutes from each. Dom can cycle to me. I have never had my own place before. I have either lived with my parents or a man! If I want a pink bin in the bathroom I can!

Packing up is a dichotomy of emotion! I can open a drawer and cry over memories of a dinner party that we bought the table mats for – then I am excited at the prospect of entertaining in my new home. I smile at the memory of choosing the cushions for our new bedroom that he never lived to see done, with a sense of loss, then get giddy at the thought of unpacking them at my cottage! Wow! What a tough ride it is.

I am aware that I may be judged for leaving; others have said they are surprised it has taken me so long. I have learnt that no matter how you react to bereavement, someone won't like it! Again one of Clive's famous sayings from the platform was 'whatever someone else thinks of you is none of your business'!

I arrived back after my hectic week of speaking to the cold, empty house. I knew I had to begin to pack more. I sat at the bottom of the stairs where Clive would wait for me. Dom was having a party that night and I wanted to be ‘on hand’ in case he needed me I wasn’t. I felt a bad mother. I felt overwhelmed with the amount of packing that was facing me. I felt angry at Clive for leaving me, something he vowed he never would. I felt I couldn’t handle it all. I began to sob, sitting on the stair where he would wait for me.

Then I realised what I must do – change my thinking. This would be the last weekend I would not be near to Dom. His Dad is an incredible father to him but I need and want to be there. This move enables that. Too much packing to do? Put on music and do it little by little. I began with the bathroom and from there the only way was up! I applied Clive's tips of 'don't run 26 miles in a marathon but run a mile 26 times'.

I shall miss the friends and neighbours I have made in Yorkshire and especially Clive's sister Lynn and brother Malcolm and their sons and daughters. It has been easier leaving with their help, support and memories. Yet I remain a phone call away and certainly intend to maintain those relationships. Thank you to you all.

In my pretty cottage with a blue door I shall continue to heal and grow. I do not regret my time with Clive, as in his words we 'had a ball'. I learnt a great deal from him, not least about relationships and 'letting go'. He would often comment that some people live their lives in bitterness, and self-inflicted pity, blaming others for what happens to them. As he often said 'it's not what happens to you in life, it's how you deal with it.'

As I pack up in the kitchen the notice board catches my eye - it has the huge list that we had compiled of what were going to achieve in 2011. Again my emotions are mixed - some will never be achieved now, some I am proud that I have done without him. Yet it is the last line which gives me the strength to proceed with this move ..

'Live our purpose on the wall and remember today is the only time we have.'

Clive had begun to be increasingly aware of 'time'. It is so very, very precious. The best way I can honour Clive's memory is to live by what we believed in. These are the words on the frame he bought me last Christmas, which says it all :-

'Remember when you go into the world to keep your eyes and ears wide open. And be kind. Love one another. Take care of each other. Tell the truth. Always do your best. Listen to the big people and the little people. Explore new paths and have fun. Know that you are loved like crazy. Give thanks for all your blessings. Above all else, love and you will do wonderful things in this world.'   Rebecca Puig

I intend to make my remaining days count in these ways - do you?

Elaine x

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Why do chips taste so good eaten outside?

My regular readers will know that I am a very kinaesthetic person and find great pleasure in the senses! Last week I had several such experiences.

In recent years I have been honoured to speak at The Samaritans national conference, held in York. As a result I have then been invited to address other locally-based branches. I am happy to give my time because I know how hard the volunteers work and if I can inspire them in some way, then bring it on!

Clive Gott had also spoken at their events. After he suffered a period of depression a few years ago (the reason why fellow speaking colleagues suggested we worked together),  he had admitted his illness on his blog. He used to joke that when some of The Samaritans read about it they rang HIM to see if he was okay!

I also know that another speaker whom I admire, Richard McCann, is a regular guest for them too.  So when I was asked many months ago if I would address the Shrewsbury branch AGM on Tuesday 15th November, I was delighted to accept. Their Chair had heard me in York and wanted me to share my story with his colleagues.

The venue was Shire Hall in Shrewsbury and I was relieved to get there in plenty of time to check my presentation, music, etc. after my problem in Bradford. Once set up, I nipped out to find some food. There was a pub but also a chippy! The smell tempted me in and I thoroughly enjoyed fish and chips in the paper wrappings on a bench outside Shire Hall in the dark. Bliss! Honestly! Why does food taste so good outside and when it is chilly?

Whilst listening to the business aspects of the AGM, I was shocked to see how their funds have been drastically reduced in the last couple of years due to ‘the recession’. Yet the number of callers in distress due to the recession has increased! Did you know that any donations to ‘The Samaritans’ goes to central office and not your local branch unless you specify that?

What a lovely group of people! I have every admiration for them as they are willing to be trained and then give up their time at unsociable hours to listen and advise those in distress. Since losing Clive I know the pain of bereavement. The fact that this service saves lives is incredible. I urge people to consider helping – either in financial terms or as a volunteer. Just think what rewarding work you could do if you gave up a few hours of television a week!

It was sad to hear apologies, e.g. from the local MP’s; however, it was great to see the local Mayor and Mayoress there offering their support in a number of ways – a charming couple. His blog is here.

I gave my presentation and was thrilled that it was well received. Comments included that I was able to inspire them personally and to give them a greater insight into the distress of their callers. That felt so good. I was able to give them information about The Joanne (Joe) Bingley Memorial Foundation, of which I am a trustee.

Feedback included:-

Thank you so much for your very charismatic presentation last night. Speaking to Volunteers afterwards it was clear to see that all were captivated by your story and have deep admiration for your strength of character and determination to move forwards into the next phase of your life. We could not fail to be inspired and also learn from your experiences both from a personal aspect but also make us all better Samaritans in being able to understand better the difficulties that some of our callers face and how we could better respond to them.

Messages like that inspire me too. I drove away from the meeting on a total high and felt privileged to have been able to speak to them. Thank you for making me feel so welcome.

I confess that the next day I felt rough! My throat was sore; my ears aching and my whole upper torso felt sore. So I practiced what I preach, rested, relaxed and looked after myself! By late evening I had bounced back!

I had needed to bounce back because on Thursday morning I was due to speak to physiotherapy students at Nottingham University – for three hours! What an amazing experience that was as well. I love to present my tips on what makes a difference to patients but also to help health professionals realise that they have to take care of themselves so THAT they can look after others. Once again I felt humbled to be able to share my story and experiences to very caring and compassionate people.

Friday was another wonderful day! My friend, colleague and fellow JBMF trustee Ann Girling and I did a full days workshop to professionals linked to Children’s Centre staff in Dewsbury, Yorkshire. It was the first time we had both presented as published authors!  On days like that, I am always amazed  how the time simply ‘flies’. We aim to increase the awareness and reduce the stigma around postnatal depression at these workshops. It works from what we were told!

So thank you to all those fantastic people I met this week. I hope I was able to enrich your lives as you did mine. I felt some wonderful hugs and warmth from many of you!

I am now taking a ‘rest’ from speaking until the New Year. I have so much to catch up on and want to do so before I start the New Year with renewed enthusiasm. Look out for my next blogs on my BIG NEWS!!!!

So what do you like to eat outside? What do you like to look at? What do you like to feel? What smell fills your mind with happy thoughts? What sound fills you with joy?

As I have traveled this week my love of Rascal Flatts continues. I like this one ...

Elaine x

Monday, 21 November 2011

Ann Girling's book is now published!

How many of you have ever said ‘I could write a book’? Have you actually ever thought it was possible? Have you made the effort?

I know someone who has just done that – let her be a source of inspiration!

My regular readers will have read about my friend, colleague and fellow trustee of The Joanne (Joe) Bingley Memorial Foundation, Ann Girling

On Friday 10th November I was delighted to attend her book launch ‘A Journey to Chocolate’. She was assisted by the same lovely lady who used to do Clive’s books for him – Shelli Walsh at

The venue was Priors Hayes Golf Club near Chester. The marquee looked so pretty draped in white and purple. There were various stalls as well and plenty of guests had made the effort to support Ann. It was wonderful to see her family there,  especially her gorgeous baby grandson and daughter. 

Since Ann and I have known each other she has spoken of ‘her book’. As the years, months and weeks have gone by I have heard the progress of it and was thrilled when she invited me to write the foreword for it. Another first for me!

Mary, another trustee of JBMF was there and had done a magnificent job of helping Ann organise the day. Chris Bingley was also there and we both gave a short presentation. I spoke of how the event today was about postnatal depression (Ann also was a sufferer), networking (as that is how Ann and I were introduced) and about hope for the future.

We enjoyed a tasty hot meal and I was pleased to meet a very special lady called Julie Smith from We had been in contact a few times over the years but never met until this event. I also met a school friend and the press photographer who has known me since I was the runner up in the Lions May Queen competition in Runcorn almost 30 years ago! Blimey I feel old!

I was thrilled to win a portrait sitting at Yaffe Fusion Art photography too as a raffle prize. 

I highly recommend Ann’s book for any woman who is interested in personal development. She has written her story with the addition of exercises that will help us all be the best we can be at the end of each chapter.
The first and only time Clive heard us present together was at the launch night of Joe’s charity in January last year. He recognised and acknowledged that we brought out the best in each other – long may it continue!

Many congratulations Ann on the ‘birth’ of your book and I look forward to us continuing our journeys together.

 You can get Ann’s book here.

So when are you going to actually start ... and publish yours?

Elaine x

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Inspired by Clive Gott to climb Kilimanjaro

I recently was told of how Clive had inspired an ascent of Kilimanjaro by Adrian Brown. I invited him to be a guest blogger and here is his account :

'Well, where do I start? I suppose I have Clive to ‘blame’ for my adventurous streak. Though maybe blame is the wrong word, as those who knew him, knew of his ability to engender a feeling of self belief and determination that was infectious!

Clive and I first met back in 2007 when I found him through an MdS (Marathon des Sables) forum. Noticing that he was an MdS Veteran and based quite near to me, he graciously offered to meet up and wax lyrical about the event and what I could expect! His knowledge was invaluable, but the enthusiasm he had was almost hypnotic! Clive’s support didn’t stop after I travelled to Morocco in APR10 for the event, he e-mailed me every day and gave me and the team words of encouragement as well as humorous anecdotes to help keep our spirits up!

After successfully completing the MdS, I found that through Clive’s enthusiasm and the natural high from the sense of achievement, I needed more… I therefore started to plan to enter La Trans Aquitaine, a similar staged race along the beautiful Western Seaboard in France. I was going to enter that on 2011, but a positive twist in fate meant an opportunity to tick another box on the list (Climbing Kilimanjaro), coupled with the opportunity to raise money for the fantastic Candlelighters charity presented itself…..

I have been friends with a recruitment professional at iSource for many years and she mentioned that they, along with people from The Yorkshire Mafia and The Test People were putting together a charity climb of Kilimanjaro to raise money for Candlelighters. Originally, the intention had been to accompany her and be her ‘support’, but following a health review with her doctor, she unfortunately had to pull out of the event and I was on my own….

Living and working in York posed its problems to meeting up with the team and sadly the first time I had opportunity to meet them was at the foyer of Leeds Bradford Airport at 0415 on Saturday 17SEP11. We immediately started to bond and it was clear from that early point that the team would be there for each other during our following expedition! I’ll leave out the usual stuff about flights (3 of them!) and the missing baggage (mine!), suffice to say the way the team came together and cobbled kit together was again a sign of the camaraderie and support that was to last from day 1 onwards.

The Kit

Day 1 – Sunday 18SEP11

(Machame Gate 1830m to Machame Hut 3000m)
We had spent the night in the Key Annexe Hotel in Moshi. It wasn’t downtown, far from it, but it’s a great little hotel on the outskirts of Moshi (about 2 miles from the centre). Rooms were basic and functional with Mosquito nest and fans and a very soft bed. After a day of travelling sleep was not a problem and we awoke refreshed and ready for the trip to Machame Gate. Machame Gate is at 1800m elevation and is the entrance to the Kilimanjaro National Park and all treks start from here. It has a couple of buildings that serve as administration hut, toilets and ‘holding’ area. I say holding as other than a few benches and tables under a solid roof, we couldn’t see any other purpose for its existence! We took the opportunity to have our lunch box (again a basic, but filling sandwich, chicken drumstick, juice and crisps. One of the team is a vegetarian and he was well catered for throughout the trip.

The team

After the formalities, we set off trekking in earnest. The route was beautiful, winding its way through the lower slopes of deep verdant flora. Fauna was less prevalent, although we were fortunate to see a white tailed monkey and, after dropping back from the main group with a member of the team who was finding the going tough, we were rewarded by seeing a dormouse.

To say we were already at 3000m, once the camp had been set up, the catering by the porters was fantastic! Every meal was freshly prepared, three courses and of good quality and quantity!

The accommodation

Day 2 – Monday 19SEP11

(Machame Hut 3000m to Shira New Camp 3840m)
After a beautifully clear night that allow spectacular views of the stars and passing satellites, the pay-off was that the temperature had plummeted during the night. A small amount of ice on the tents identified areas of pooling water or condensation, but this quickly disappeared after the first rays of the sun peaked over the horizon. We were welcomed by the incredible sight of looking down onto the clouds below us. I shall never forget these views and they made you feel that you were in an alternate plain, surveying creation. Breakfast raised our spirits further (if at all possible after my previous comment!) and we made a ‘Mountain Mocha’ of instant coffee and Cadbury’s hot chocolate….. mmmhhh yummy!

The trek today was quite punishing as it was almost constant climbing. Obviously you tend to go up when climbing a mountain, but it was more scrambling and climbing around rocks than trekking up an inclined slope.

The fabulous support team

Day 3 – Tuesday 20SEP11

(New Shira Camp 3840m to Barranco Wall 4000m)
Today would be a good day, whatever the ‘hill’ threw at me! Why? Because at 0630 a porter crested the track from Machame Hut with the best thing I could ever wish to se…. my main bag! This saint of a man had set of at some ungodly hour of the morning to return my bag to me. In my best (!) Swahili, I thanked him profusely and was soon revelling in the pleasures of clean underwear, thermal layers, boiled sweets, trekking poles etc. It was lucky that this event had lifted my spirits as soon out the camp, the rain started, which soon turned to sleet, and then hail! Some of the team decided to visit Lava Tower (4,560m), but myself and roughly half of the team decided that due to the weather and our general level of fatigue, we would dip out and head straight to camp at Barranco Wall. A good choice personally as I was definitely starting to feel the effects of altitude sickness.

Day 4 – Wednesday 21SEP11
(Barranco Wall 4000m to Karanga Valley 4000m)

I’d be lying if I didn’t say that this would be the day I quit, though those of you who know me, know that I don’t do quitting! Looking at Barranco Wall from the camp a mere 400m away, gave it the appearance of being vertical! I am terrible with heights and I really thought I’d met my match and would not be able to overcome my fear. ‘Fortunately’ another member of the team was in a similar position to me, so we provided each other with support and positive reassurance that we could do it! We started to climb carefully and bizarrely as we gained height, the wall appeared to be less vertical than first believed. That’s not to say it wasn’t steep and there were definitely a few moments where tears where shed, hearts were racing and determination needed to be summoned from the deepest parts of our being. The views from the top of the wall were, as you would imagine spectacular! I have definitely conquered my fear of heights and relished the drop offs and views from that point onwards. An undulating path for the rest of the afternoon brought us to our penultimate camp before summit night. Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) had well and truly set in on me and some of the team and the effort required just to get to camp was incredible. Added to that I had lost my appetite and had a crashing headache which ibuprofen or paracetamol was not touching!

Day 5 – Thursday 22SEP11

(Karanga Valley 4000m to Barafu Hut 4572m – Barafu Hut 4572m to Urhuru Peak 5895m )
Double day effort! After breakfast, we walked to Barafu Huts. This wasn’t a particularly strenuous trek and it needed to be gentle to conserve our energy for the summit attempt later tonight / tomorrow morning! Although giving my increasing suffering of AMS, the effort was extreme. After arriving at Barranco Wall, we rested until late evening 2300, when we got ready to summit! I hadn’t eaten for a day and the chief guide, Lipman advised me to take some ibuprofen, paracetamol and Diamox and get some rest. He would decide when he woke us for the summit bid whether my attempt was on or if I would be sent down to lower altitudes for my own safety. Fortunately sleep came quickly and I managed to get about 8 hours solid rest. When he woke me around 2200, I was fighting fit and the drug cocktail had worked its magic and although not 100%, my headache had dramatically reduced, I felt like I actually had some energy and was raring to go!

The ascent was hell. A monotonous zigzagging path which was mainly dust over stone / rock with the odd stretch of scree that demoralised the unprepared by slipping you back with every foot step taken. We battled the mountain for 7 hours, loosing a couple of team members on the way. The team really pulled together to try and get everyone to summit, but we all had our own internal battles and despite our collective best efforts, some guys just couldn’t go on. The ridge at Stella Point seemed never to arrive, then suddenly it appeared. I had prepared myself for this moment and although I did take a moment to rest and reflect, I didn’t fall into the trap of thinking I had conquered the mountain, I knew that was another 45 minutes and 200m ahead and above me. Actually remembering to stop and take pictures of the beautiful Southern Glaciers, the true summit seemed to take no time at all and it was an emotional time when I joined the other 7 successful summiteers from our team and took in the achievement.

You are allowed a maximum of 45 minutes at the summit, though my AMS was returning by this point and my guide advised me to descend as soon as practicable, so we set off to Barafu Hut.

The 'terrible' views

Day 6 – Friday 23SEP11

(Uhuru Peak 5895m to Barafu Hut 4572m, then on to High Camp 3800m)
The descent was quick! Overall the summit and return to advanced camp took us 11 hours. This apparently is quick, with the average time taken around 23 hours! The weather deteriorated as we approached Barafu hut and a decision was made by the guides to strike camp and push on to High Camp. The trek was awful, with the majority of the day in a mix of light to heavy rain. It didn’t help that High Camp was the least favourite camp that we had been in all week. If we had realised that after the 4 hour trek to High Camp, the relative oasis that was Millennium Camp (3100m) was a mere 2 hours away, I’m sure the group consensus would have been to push on and take advantage of an empty camp with proper toilets!

Day 7 – Saturday 24SEP11

(High Camp 3800m to Mweka Gate 1500m)
My birthday! Sadly we didn’t summit on my birthday, but hey it was near enough! In a way I’m glad as I was greeted by a chorus of happy birthday by my trekking buddies and the long walk back to ‘civilisation’ seemed less arduous now that the goal had been achieved and we all looking forward to getting a proper clean, some food and several very well earned beers!

Mweka Gate was, as imagined similar to Machame Gate, but with the addition of entrepreneurial locals taking opportunity of weary trekkers to tout their wares. Everything from carved wooden safari jeeps, to friendship bracelets and even some hunting knives / spears were on offer. I settled to barter on a couple of T-Shirts, picking up a couple of reasonably priced ones proclaiming my success on the mountain. We were bussed to a local village where we had the opportunity to give the porters any unwanted kit and of course the very well earned bonuses. Through a mix of Sterling, Dollars and Schilling, they porters did very well from out team!

Once we had got back to the hotel and made ourselves relatively presentable, we went to a restaurant in downtown Moshi and had a deserved meal and beer(s!). I’ll not go into the full details, but let’s just say that the flight was the following day at 0635 and we had to leave Moshi at 0400. There were a few of us who decided that there was no point going to bed as we could sleep on the plane….

Day 8 – Sunday 25SEP11

Fly home! Another all day trudge with an extended stop in Schipol for 5 hours, but safe in the knowledge that we were nearly home! Great flight, easy baggage reclaim, joyous meeting with friends and family at LBA! Job done, £26,000 raised during the expedition and a further £21,000 would be raised at the Candlelighters Candy Ball a few weeks later.


There were times on the hill that I visited some very dark places and seriously doubted my ability to achieve the goal. I thought about all the people that had sponsored me, my family and friends and the people who inspire me to help get me through. I did think about Clive a lot and what he would be saying to help get me through. Along with his ‘laws’ and how excited I know he would have been at my achievement and these pushed me to succeed. Thank you to everyone who supported me in this life changing event.'

Fantastic Adrian (and others!)

Elaine x